This Epic Sci-Fi Short Was Lit Entirely by Moonlight & Shot at an ISO of 51,200
It was only a matter of time until someone leveraged the insane lowlight capabilities of the a7S and shot a narrative short lit entirely by the light of the moon. That time is now, and that film is Refuge, which was directed by Sam Shapson.
Refuge was, of course, shot on the Sony a7S recording externally to an Atomos Shogun. Shapson and his team chose to shoot on Canon CN-E Primes, wide open at either T/1.3 or T/1.5 depending on the lens. For good measure, they also used a Metabones Speed Booster. Down in the comments of the Vimeo page, Shapson explains how they went about choosing the picture profile for the a7S, as well as a few other pieces of the process.
We tested all of the picture profiles and seriously considered pp7 for s-log, but unfortunately we couldn't reconcile the way it handled noise in the deep shadows unless we graded down about 2 stops, which we couldn't afford to risk committing to. Therefore we landed on pp6, shot wide open at 1/25 with the speedbooster. Lastly, the 4K from the shogun was utilized to give Neat Video every bit of info we could throw it to smooth out the noise. Still, I'm constantly reminding myself how the images here are so much more clear and vibrant than what my eyes were seeing out there in the dark. Still blows me away.
Personally, I'm a bit torn on the aesthetic of the film. On one hand, it definitely looks like it was shot at an extremely high ISO. Certain parts of each image, the skies in particular, are downright noisy and occasionally blocky. On the other hand, that particular aesthetic really seems to work for this film. Were it not for the fact that the noise is being smoothed out by Neat Video, which gives the sky a surreal other-worldly look, kind of like the atmosphere is dancing and constantly moving, then I would be inclined to say it doesn't work. But it does.
All in all, this is a perfect example of modern technology enabling us to do things that were never before possible. What's even more exciting is that the technology just keeps getting better. In a few year's time, shooting in moonlight might be commonplace.
What are your thoughts on this short? Let us know down in the comments!